Importance of Making and Keeping Friends and Separation from Friends
Making and maintaining friendships is something that you’ll do throughout your whole life. For some people, making friends comes naturally and easily. For others it can be scary or intimidating.
Friendships are important because friends do so many things for us. They:
- provide fun and excitement
- give advice
- provide companionship and recreation
- are loyal
- provide stability during times of stress or transition
- teach us things like: conflict resolution, cooperation and reciprocity (give and take)
Everybody brings his or her own strengths to a friendship. What are some of yours? Talking to other friends and to your family can help you identify the strengths you bring to a relationship. These may include:
- being honest and dependable
- being positive about yourself and others
- doing your share of talking and listening
- accepting individual differences
- being respectful of thoughts and feelings
- being non-judgmental
- sharing interests and skills
You may have questions or concerns about making friends, keeping friends, being separated from friends or having a friendship come to an end. For help with these questions, take a look at this website, talk to a trusted adult or call Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868.
People can have lots of different kinds of friendships. You may have one close friend or a few very close friends, and friends who are connected to you through specific activities or places (e.g. camp, school, sports teams or a job). You may have friends who you are very close to and who you spend a lot of time with, or friends who you see only a few times a year. No matter what form your friendships take, they are an important part of life.
During adolescence you’ll probably want to spend more and more time with your friends. The friendships you make during this time become very important for developing your sense of identity and self-confidence.
The hardest part of making friends is usually making an initial contact. Generally, it’s easiest to meet people somewhere that you spend a lot of time – like at school or in your community.
- School – because teenagers spend most of their time at school this is an excellent place to meet people. Some places to meet people at school are:
- in class
- in the cafeteria
- through extra-curricular activities like clubs or sports.
- Community – What are your interests? Do you enjoy sports, theatre, music, poetry, books, volunteering, or other things? Many of these things are offered in your community and lots of them are free. Check your local newspaper to see what’s going on in your community that you’re interested in.
The reason that these are good places to meet people is because the easiest way to meet people is through common interests.
It’s important to remember that friendships don’t always happen over night. They take time. So what can you do after the initial "hello" to help build a friendship? Here are some ideas that may be helpful:
- talk about a common interest/assignment etc.
- ask the person to go for a walk, for lunch or for coffee
- share a piece of exciting news
- offer your help, or ask for help on something you are working on
Some people meet friends on the Internet. While this can be a good place to chat with people, it’s not always a safe place to meet new people for friendships. Unfortunately there is no way of knowing who you are chatting with when you’re online. This is why it’s important not to give out any identifying information about yourself. This includes:
- your address
- your phone number
- your school
- your passwords
If someone you are chatting with online is asking you for this information, please tell an adult like a parent, teacher, or principal.
Once you’ve started a friendship, you’ll need to think about maintaining it. Relationships take work. Even when a friendship is strong, it’s still important to check in every once in a while in order to not take the friendship for granted. Some suggestions for keeping friendships strong include:
- keeping the lines of communication open
- trusting your friend and being trustworthy
- being honest
- trying to accept differences
- listening and sharing
- taking equal responsibility of the relationship
- respecting each other’s space
- spending time alone
- learning conflict resolution
Separation from Friends
Friendships are sometimes affected by things beyond our control – for example, when a friend moves to a new place because a parent’s job has changed or moved. It can be very hard to lose a friend, but remember that it’s possible to stay in touch through:
- occasional visits
- phone calls
- writing letters
Even if you’re not living in the same neighbourhood, friendships can continue for years - some even last a lifetime!
When Friendships End
Sometimes friendships end. As we grow older, we begin to change and sometimes we drift away from old friends. This is a normal part of life. For some relationships this ending is a natural progression and is relatively painless. For others, the transition can be more difficult.
Often there are outside factors that make continuing a friendship difficult. These factors may include:
- changes in life focus
- differences in expectations
- differences in interests
- lack of transportation
- differences in beliefs
- change in behaviour
Sometimes these issues can be overcome, but sometimes they can lead to the end of a friendship. Another reason that a friendship may end is that there are problems within the relationship, such as:
- one of you has shared personal information with others
- you are not taking equal responsibility for the relationship
- lying or dishonesty
- problems in communication, both in listening and talking
- one or both of you has been engaging in risky or illegal behaviour
- peer pressure
- not allowing for personal space
Before deciding to end a friendship, you may want to ask yourself some questions:
- Is there something going on that is influencing your feelings or the way you see things?
- Is the person always like this or is it just a one time thing?
- Is the person going through something that may be making them act differently?
- Do you usually enjoy this relationship?
- How often do you feel hurt by this person?
You may also want to talk to your friend and see if there is any way you can work things out – remember that it’s up to you if you decide to remain friends or to walk away.
If you do decide to end the friendship, it’s normal to feel sad, angry or hurt. You may want to take the time to grieve and miss your friend. You might remember your friendship and think about that friend forever. That is ok. When you’re ready, you’ll be able to meet new friends and start the process all over again.